To: NSW Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts
Protect children from secondhand smoke drift in multi-unit housing
• Amend the NSW Strata Act to include tobacco smoking under the legislative definition of 'nuisance' and 'hazard', explicitly recognising that second-hand tobacco smoke is both a nuisance and a serious health hazard.
• The legislation should explicitly establish that any tobacco smoke that drifts into any residential lot a person owns, leases or rents is a hazard.
• Strata law and related judicial processes need to protect strata residents and assist in preventing involuntary second-hand smoke exposure in residential settings.
Why is this important?
Under current strata law, residents are not explicitly protected from involuntary second-hand smoke exposure in residential settings. For the first time in fifty years, strata law is under review and now is the time for change.
Smoking laws are inconsistent - as a person of the public you are already protected from tobacco smoke in many public places and buildings. But if an apartment is your home, your air quality is at the whim of your neighbours.
As parents we want the right to have a smoke-free home to raise our children. Further we want the law on our side when we ask our neighbours to be responsible and contain their smoke rather than allowing it to drift and trespass into our home.
In our case, when our neighbours smoke on their balcony or terrace, they might as well have be smoking over our children's beds – as the window is not further than 1.5 metres to where they are smoking. Even a smoker must appreciate that second-hand smoke is toxic and can damage the health of others.
It is a fact that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and children are particularly vulnerable to it. Second-hand smoke exposure among children is a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, respiratory infections and ear problems. Children's exposure has also been associated with lung cancer in adulthood and the evolution of cardiovascular disease. For our young family, this risk, in our own home, is utterly unacceptable.
When we started questioning why NSW Strata Law was failing us, we found that there were other stories like ours, of parents trying to protect the health of their children.
Our children have no option but to breathe in their own home and we seek to protect their basic right to clean air in their own home - it's time to recognise tobacco smoke as a nuisance and a hazard under Strata Law.